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The pathogenesis of COVID-19 is still under study, with still much to be discovered about its symptoms and epidemiology.
Even though this illness is primarily associated with fever and respiratory distress, a lot of patients have reported experiencing digestive symptoms as well.
Thus, there is enough evidence to suggest that the novel coronavirus does not just affect your respiratory tract but can very well disrupt your gastrointestinal functioning as well.
Are gastrointestinal problems common alongside respiratory problems when suffering from COVID-19?
Yes, COVID-19 can cause abdominal pain.
A recent study revealed an incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with COVID-19. These symptoms included anorexia, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Diarrhea was the most commonly reported gastrointestinal symptom in children and adults. (1)
Although most patients have these symptoms along with respiratory symptoms, some patients may only experience gastrointestinal symptoms. Additionally, gastrointestinal symptoms can be the pressing symptoms before the respiratory illness.
If you develop persistent digestive symptoms despite any identifiable cause, chances are you may be carrying the virus. In such a case, you are advised not to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and practice stringent hand hygiene to avoid transmitting the infection to others.
Can COVID-19 cause nausea and loss of smell?
Yes, several patients with COVID-19 reported experiencing nausea and vomiting during their bout of the illness.
Loss of smell, however, has not been reported much in these patients. Loss of appetite is still the most prevalent digestive symptom associated with COVID-19.
Do gastrointestinal symptoms precede respiratory symptoms in COVID-19?
Based on the studies from China, most of the patients who had gastrointestinal symptoms also had respiratory symptoms at the same time. (1)(2) However, in some patients, the gastrointestinal symptoms can precede the respiratory symptoms.
Can the COVID-19 virus be found in the stool of an infected person?
Yes, COVID-19 RNA can be found in the stool of the infected individuals, particularly those with gastrointestinal symptoms. In fact, most of the patients who had the virus in their stool were majorly showing digestive symptoms rather than respiratory distress.
Moreover, the patients who only exhibited respiratory symptoms were far less likely to have the virus in their fecal excreta.
Can COVID-19 cause liver damage?
Yes, abnormal liver enzymes have been reported in patients with COVID-19, although no serious liver damage has been reported.
Are people with predisposed liver damage more prone to COVID-19?
Yes, patients who have preexisting liver disease and an immunocompromised status, such as those with liver cirrhosis or on immunosuppressive medications for autoimmune liver disease, are more prone to contracting COVID-19.
What measures can be taken at home to reduce the discomfort caused by gastrointestinal problems in patients with COVID-19?
The gastrointestinal symptoms of COVID-19 are addressed in the traditional manner and do not warrant any specialized treatment. Most of the patients had diarrhea and were advised to take the standard antidiarrheal medication to cope with the problem.
Similarly, patients suffering from nausea and vomiting were given antinausea medications. For abdominal pain, patients should avoid taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and can take Tylenol instead.
Should gastrointestinal problems be taken into consideration when screening for COVID-19 patients?
Yes, as many patients can present with only gastrointestinal symptoms, they should be taken as a legitimate cause for concern.
If you happen to experience any kind of unexplained digestive distress that fails to subside despite proper care, you should have a high suspicion for COVID-19 and get yourself tested for the same.
Can COVID-19 manifest gastrointestinal symptoms similar to the symptoms of other gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease and IBS?
Yes, the most common gastrointestinal symptoms of COVID-19 are diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, which are similar to the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease.
Why are older people more prone to infection?
Middle-aged and elderly patients usually have many preexisting chronic medical problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, and COPD, in addition to a relatively weak immune system, all of which are risk factors for COVID-19.
Thus, older people are not only more likely to contract the infection but also more vulnerable to its complications, which can be fatal.
Is the mortality rate of COVID-19 with gastrointestinal problems greater than COVID-19 without these symptoms?
Yes, some studies have shown that patients with COVID-19 who have gastrointestinal symptoms, along with respiratory symptoms, have almost twice the risk of mortality than patients who do not have any digestive problems. (3)(4)
What lifestyle changes should be implemented to keep one’s emotional and mental health upbeat during the lockdown phase?
It has been a tough time for the whole global population that has been put under lockdown and confined to their homes. There have been more reports of anxiety, depression, alcohol, and drug use.
People are encouraged to stay active, exercise regularly, and communicate with their social support systems such as family and friends via telephone or video chat to maintain their emotional well-being.